Today I have the honor of introducing you to the fabulous author, Keith Robinson. He's working diligently on the second half of this series and has made quite an impression on fans, even catching the attention of the fabulous Piers Anthony. Today he shares with us the process of building his series from the ground up. So, take a peek into how it all began with Keith Robinson.
I moved to the USA from England in 2001 and started writing ISLAND OF FOG the following year. It was a long process writing bits here and there, honing my skills, and also switching from British English to US English (which I felt was necessary if I ever planned to submit a manuscript to a US publisher.) In 2008 I made a concerted effort to finish the novel, then sent it to a professional editor. This was the first time anyone other than myself had read it, so I was nervous. But she loved it.
I had one copy printed by CreateSpace just because I wanted to see what it “felt” like, but once I held it in my grubby hands, I decided to go ahead with self-publishing. This was in April 2009. Somehow I ended up being “discovered” by the local library (by word of mouth) and from there I did book talks, signings, interviews, and so on, all in the local area. My books are in three public libraries, several middle schools, and on the shelves at the local Barnes & Noble (next to J. K. Rowling!). Meanwhile, bestselling fantasy author Piers Anthony favorably reviewed ISLAND OF FOG in his July 2009 newsletter, and because of that I was contacted by an agent who wanted to represent the book as a potential TV/movie property.
The book started out as a single novel, but even before I finished writing it, I’d decided to make it into a trilogy. So the second book, LABYRINTH OF FIRE, came along in November 2009. This was a six-month turnaround from start to finish, a vast improvement over six years! Clearly I had figured out what I was doing. The third book, MOUNTAIN OF WHISPERS, rounded off the trilogy in August 2010.
But as I was finishing that third book, I decided I wanted to continue the story further. Even though the trilogy had ended, I saw no reason not to start another 3-book arc. LAKE OF SPIRITS continues the story but also starts a new arcing subplot. Naturally the series is now intended to be six books (possibly more); I’m currently writing the fifth, ROADS OF MADNESS, and will start on the sixth later in the year. There seems to be an endless number of angles I can explore in this series; my only dilemma is which I should choose.
Writing a series has many benefits. The characters are established in the first book, and the rest of the series is spent expanding on their personalities. It’s a cliche, but when you write/read other books in a series, there’s a sense of “putting on a comfortable sweater.” You can be with old friends again and join them on a new adventure. And from a purely business point of view, once you sell readers on that first book, they’re going to want to get the rest in the series. It’s a no-brainer in terms of “cashing in.”
I often use a single point of view in my writing. The entire FOG series is seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Hal Franklin. I’ve been very careful to ensure that every word of narrative is from his POV and doesn’t temporarily jump into someone else’s head. This approach works well for me, and I think it draws readers deeper into the story. For one thing, they’re not continually jumping from character to character where one subplot might, unfortunately, be less interesting than another. Also, it helps convey a greater sense of mystery; when you read a chapter about a villain plotting his Great Scheme early in the book, the reader is then more knowledgeable than the main protagonist, and it can be frustrating waiting for him to catch up. Being firmly inside the main character’s head throughout means we know only what he knows, thus heightening the mystery.
But this approach does present limitations. Occasionally a scene will take place that I would love to describe but can’t because the main character is not there. He can’t be everywhere all the time, and it would seem forced if he was. So, sadly, once in a while that scene happens “off-camera,” which itself can be a challenge. Careful plotting is needed in these instances.
Then again, careful plotting is ALWAYS needed, so nothing new there. I wrote my first book organically and ended up rewriting or deleting entire chapters when I realized I was going in the wrong direction. Writing a chapter summary beforehand means I go through that same plotting/thinking process early and can therefore avoid writing chapters I don’t need!
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